Back into it (23.2022)

I hope you’ll excuse my recent burst of silence.

I’ve been back from Australia for a while but was not much motivated to write last weekend, so you’ll miss all of my insightful comments on the Queen’s Jubilee.

Actually I didn’t watch any of the pageantry or concerts or… any of it. We celebrated the Jubilee by:

  • Baking Jubilee cupcakes. What are Jubilee cupcakes? They are plain vanilla cupcakes with poisonously bright red and blue icing.
  • Making red white and blue pancakes for breakfast – a much healthier option than the cupcakes, being topped with strawberries, banana and blueberries.
  • Making coronation chicken casserole. Coronation chicken is usually a cold sandwich filling but I found a hot casserole version instead.
  • Completing a Queen themed jigsaw. We bought this one earlier in the year and saved it especially for this weekend. It was surprisingly easy and didn’t take us much more than one day.
  • Listening to the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen”

I think I’ve been doing my job for a long time but think about Queen Elizabeth – she’s been doing the same job for 70 years now! And she isn’t retiring despite being 95. Ninety-five is an age where she should definitely be having more time with her feet up instead of standing on her feet watching parades.

After the four-day weekend for the Jubilee it was back to work. People have been very nice and cautious around me, as if worried I’m going to start crying. The one way people have not been nice and cautious is in my workload. It didn’t stop while I was away. People did their best to pick things up and carry on but I am also aware out of 12 weeks in my new team I have been out of the office for 5 of them. And the workload just keeps piling on. I still have 60 emails in my inbox that are unread. There were some 500 when I logged on Monday morning after being away. I don’t really know what is pending, what is burning. I’ve asked people to shout loudly if things are urgent and I’ll respond to shouting and deal with non-shouting tasks in between.

Three days in the office last week and all long days with late finishes. Coming home at 8pm or 9pm at this time of year means it’s still light so I can pretend it’s early evening instead of nearly bedtime. As we are approaching the longest day, the weather has picked up and improved. My home office has changed overnight from the coldest room in the house to the warmest room in the house.

It’s also the most freshly-painted room in the house as I am on a mission to make the home office a nicer place to work. For a while now I’ve been convinced that if only the office was “nicer”, I could work more efficiently. (Yes, I know I’m externalising my own internal issues.) A first step in nicening up the office was this weekend’s repaint. We switched from the dreary brownish shade to a dusty purple shade. Purple walls in the home office will of course make me more calm and productive! And cleverer! And thinner! And possibly taller.

Of course, painting isn’t such an easy thing in a small and cluttered room. First step, empty out two big and very full bookcases. Then disassemble the desk, disconnect and unplug all the IT/power cables and remove the two chairs. Then remove the two bookcases and the rug and then – and only then – will you be able to see if the mould problem hidden in the corner behind the bookcase is persisting. (No, it seems to have dried up.)

(My next stop in humanising the home office will be getting a new office chair. Slowly, slowly.)

My other task for the weekend was gardening. Not just standard gardening activity – weeding, pruning, mowing the lawn, chasing pigeons off the gooseberry bushes – but serious planting activity.

You see, while in Australia in a state of… who knows what…. I got an email from a gardening supply company, advertising the last of their 2021 fruit trees at a very discounted price.

I love a bargain, and I love fruit trees, and I love a bargain fruit tree even more. Yes, I know these trees should have been planted in November last year. Yes, I know they are going to struggle being planted now in the middle of summer. Yes, I‘m going to order them anyway.

They arrived last week, and my pack of four trees turned out to be five: two apples, two plum, and one pear. Cheap fruit tree bonus! I ordered some pots to put these trees into and I ordered the pots without measuring them. The pots that arrived were more like barrels – they are huge. My poor baby fruit trees would be lost in pots so big. I also ordered some compost/potting soil but even with all that I ordered I only had enough to fill maybe one and a half of these big barrel pots. This required a rethink and some serious repotting action in the garden – in between coats of paint, that is.

But everyone has a home now, I just have to wait and see if they survive.

While in Australia, I (re)started working my way through The Artist’s Way. I started reading this a year and a half ago and – as the book predicted – came up against some resistance within myself.

“I’m not a morning person, I can’t get up early and do morning pages” was probably the first and most obvious one. And because I couldn’t even commit to that I put the book back on the shelf beside my home office desk where it could stare at me every day and remind me it was waiting.

Yes, I didn’t like the idea of getting up half an hour early to do morning pages. But put me in Australia and give me a shocking dose of jetlag and I am writing my morning pages every day at 3am and 4am when I cannot sleep. And even since I got back, the early morning light as we approach midsummer means I have been waking up at 5am and writing pages and then going back to bed for a little doze before the alarm.

The concept of the Artist Date I’ve struggled with also. In Australia, I had a day where I went on a walk through town on my own and then took a bus out to the Planetarium by myself. All good serious alone time. And when I think of Artist Date each week, my brain says, “But I went to the Planetarium!” (Leaving out the fact it was three weeks ago.)

I made another date this week though. I went to see a concert by Angelique Kidjo, a Beninese singer. (In Beninese the correct term?) In my “cleaning out of old things” that I did in Australia, I found my photo album from my year and a half in Scotland. The photos were interspersed with theatre and cinema tickets. I saw I had seen Angelique Kidjo in Scotland back in 1995(!). I can’t recall anything of that show, but I know I would have gone on my own. My flatmates at the time, dear as they were, would not have been into West African music. This old photo album reminded me that I used to go to things on my own all the time.

I’m up to week 4 of The Artist’s Way, the week where you give up reading. I thought this would be tough but I don’t read a lot, it seems. I mostly read on my commute. This last week has been a perfect storm – no reading, three days of commutes instead of two and it being the first week of #1000wordsofsummer. I have discovered this week, that on one leg of my commute, I can churn out ~850 words. Wow! That’s amazing! Think of the potential I have been wasting on my commuting time reading other people’s words when I could have been writing mine.

The biggest challenge is of course I didn’t do any planning for #1000words. I have my WIP that I’ve been dictating in my head for months, but I haven’t reviewed what I had already written (and what I haven’t written, except in my head) so I started writing whatever occurred to me on the day and hoped I wasn’t rewriting something that I’d already written months ago.

You’d think after long days hunched over a computer at work, the last thing I would want to do would be hunch over a computer on my commute but it is actually an amazing stress reliever. I pick my idea and start writing, knowing I have ~17 minutes of train journey to write as much as I possibly can, followed by maybe 10 minutes on the bus. I can get pretty close to 1000 words in that time.

This weekend I also tried to remove the gel nail polish I had done the day of my mother’s funeral. It was nice to have well-groomed nails for a while (I struggle to hold a regular manicure more than a few days) but – especially after a few hours of gardening – the gel is starting to crack and lift up around the edges and catch on things. It’s annoying and it needs to come off but from what I understand the only way to do this is to sit with your fingernails soaking in acetone nail polish remover! Gah… How annoying. Actually soaking my nails in chemicals to remove a hard baked on layer. I’m probably wrecking my nails by picking the gel off piece by piece when it starts to lift off.

Why did I get this done again? Ah yes, I was in a weird state of grief. The state of grief that requires a good manicure.

I hope you don’t make any ill-advised decisions this week under some kind of heightened emotional state.

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